Washington DC DUI Penalties

Driving under the influence in DC carries severe risks of getting charged with one of three types of impaired driving, DWI, DUI, and OWI. Many drivers feel that they can drive safely after having one or two casual cocktails, but DC has a zero tolerance policy to reduce accidents that are caused by inebriated or impaired drivers.

Drivers can receive convictions even when driving with a blood alcohol content less than the 0.08 percent national legal limit. If you are facing charges and DUI penalties in DC, you need the help of a DC DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

Types of Impaired Driving Offenses

There are three types of charges that involve operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Driving While Intoxicated

Operating a motor vehicle while a blood alcohol level that is 0.08 percent or above carries severe penalties and automatic license suspension. Drivers under the age of 21 can be convicted of DWI for any measurable alcohol content.

Driving Under the Influence

Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.05 or higher can result in a DUI charge if drivers show evidence of appreciable impairment.

Operating While Impaired

Someone does not need to be driving to be charged with OWI, which is essentially a zero tolerance law. BACs of as little as 0.02 percent or more can still affect someone’s ability to operate and control a motor vehicle. Drivers who pull to the side of the road, but leave their keys in the ignition still have control of their vehicles and could be charged with OWI.

Possible Penalties for a Conviction

Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor criminal offense in DC.Penalties for impaired driving in DC vary depending on the charge, the driver’s driving record, BAC content, and evidence of unsafe driving. Breathalyzers, which had been banned in DC due to inaccurate readings from faulty equipment, have been replaced and reinstated.

Drivers must submit to these tests or face losing their right to drive for one year, and they can still be convicted by other evidence of drunk or impaired driving. Typical penalties include fines, community service, license suspensions, and jail time.

DWI and DUI Penalties

Penalties have recently increased for DC drivers convicted of DUI charges. Drug or alcohol use can cause impairment, and marijuana stays in the blood for days after and could be used to convict if someone shows other signs of impaired driving. Fines and penalties include the following sanctions:

  • First offenses could result in fines up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail
  • Judges impose mandatory 10-day jail sentences if their BAC is over 0.20, 15 days for BACs over 0.25, and 20 days for BACs over 0.30 percent alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood
  • Second offenses committed within 15 years of the first violation result in fines of $2,500 to $5,000 and up to one year in jail, with a minimum jail term of 10 days
  • If they drive impaired with a passenger under 17 years of age, then additional minimum fines of $500 to $1,000 per child apply for first and subsequent offenses. Judges must impose a minimum five-day jail sentence per restrained child and 10-day jail sentence per unrestrained child
  • These fines and penalties apply even if drivers never move their vehicles an inch. According to the law, getting behind the wheel and inserting keys in the ignition gives someone control of the motor vehicle

OWI Penalties

Prosecutors can easily prove OWI charges because they only need to demonstrate minor impairment and alcohol or drug consumption. OWI fines and penalties include the following sanctions:

  • First convictions carry a $500 fine and maximum possible jail sentence of ninety days
  • Second convictions within 15 years could result in fines of $1,000 to $2,500 and up to one year in jail
  • Second convictions carry a mandatory five-day jail sentence
  • Third and subsequent convictions within 15 years carry $1,000 to $5,000 fines, one-year maximum jail sentences, and a 10-day minimum jail sentence

DUI While Driving Without a License Penalties

A DUI is a separate charge from driving without a license or driving on a suspended license. An individual faces a penalty for the DUI along with the penalty for the separate charge. The issue is that judges tend to take that more seriously because not only is the person accused of driving under the influence or operating while impaired, they are accused of doing so without a driver’s license.

There is a difference between a person who never had a license who is driving versus someone having a license that was suspended for a technical violation or failure to pay a reinstatement fee because they could not afford it versus someone who has their license suspended because they are on their fifth DUI.

Driving without a license can be an aggravating factor on a DUI charge because judges see the person as ignoring the law. That is not a place an individual wants to be when they are charged with a DUI.

Mitigating Penalties

Sometimes, a lawyer can convince a judge and prosecutor to accept a plea bargain and reduce DUI charges to OWI. Although this charge carries less severe penalties, this will count as a DUI offense if you receive another DUI conviction within a 15-year period.

If convicted, DC DUI penalties could limit your ability to drive, find employment, or keep your job. Even after you pay your fines, serve your sentence, and perform any community service, the conviction could still possibly haunt you for years.

If you face DUI charges, you only have 15 days to fight license suspension at the DMV. However, a skilled DUI lawyer can help minimize consequences, fight charges, and protect your rights. The following DUI legal strategies could help you after being charged with impaired driving offenses:

  • First-time offenders can sometimes qualify for special court-ordered driving classes and get their charges dismissed
  • Breathalyzer tests can be challenged due to acid reflux and other digestive disorders
  • A DC DUI lawyer can challenge the officer’s reasons for making a traffic stop.
  • Innocent explanations for driving erratically could challenge evidence of impaired driving
  • Rising blood alcohol could offer a possible defense based on when the BAC test is administered
  • Field sobriety tests could be open to alternative interpretations

If you have any questions regarding the different types of DUI charges that exist then you should contact a DC DUI lawyer at your earliest convenience.